Policies and Procedures
The Queensland Independent Schools Block Grant Authority (QIS BGA) ensures that its policies and procedures are in line with the legislation and guidelines provided by each level of Government (Australian and State). Such policies and procedures are applied when making capital grant recommendations to the Australian and State Government Ministers for Education. It is the intent of the QIS BGA to not only follow the precise “letter of the law” as set out in the legislation and the guidelines, but also to endeavour to ascertain the “intent” of the legislation, as interpreted by the Government of the day. In consultation with the Capital Funding Advisory Committee, the Directors have formalised the following policies to be used in the assessment of applications for capital assistance.
- The Similarity of Australian and State Government Legislation and Guidelines
- Primacy of Funding Core Curriculum Spaces
- Minimum Viable Project
- Maximum Financial Contribution
- The Management Capacity of the School
- The School as the Primary Source of Funding for a Project
Subject to authority of the respective Ministers for Education, the QIS BGA administers both Australian Government and State Capital funds for Independent Schools in Queensland.
In determining accurate application of the State and Australian Government legislation and guidelines, the QIS BGA has adopted the policy wherein the intent of both sets of legislation is the same in “ensuring that all funds are allocated on the basis of educational and financial need (socio-economic disadvantage)” and that “All eligible applicants may not receive assistance as a matter of course” (State Govt. Guidelines 2005; Item 10(2); Aust. Govt. Guide to the Education Act 2013; Sect B.3. 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual para. 10).
The State legislation requires the ranking of schools in order of educational and financial need. This is also reflected in the Australian Government requirement that “projects must be ranked for funding primarily on the basis of educational disadvantage of the student population of the school” (Aust. Govt 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual para. 57, 58, 59).
While the State and Australian Government legislation and guidelines by which QIS BGA must operate are very similar, there are some differences of emphasis which QIS BGA is obliged to recognise. The main difference is the requirement that in judging whether a school is eligible for Australian Government Capital funds, the QIS BGA is obliged to take into consideration how the project will contribute to the Commonwealth Program Objectives and the SES scores of applicant schools (Aust Govt 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual para.10,54, Appendix 4).
The primary function of the Australian and State Government Capital grants is for the support of “core curriculum” spaces, such as classrooms. QIS BGA has developed the policy that other facilities required for tuition based activities or the support of such activities (e.g. Admin) will be considered. This will be with the understanding that they are prioritised in order so that they do not detrimentally affect QIS BGA’s capacity to assist schools which need to provide facilities essential to the task of teaching their core curriculum (see “Learning Places and Spaces – Area Guidelines for Educational Spaces”).
It is QIS BGA policy that the first task of the BGA is to determine the dimension of the educational need which an applicant school has for the proposed project – a project which is consistent with sound educational planning within the school and the environment within which it is operating (Aust. Govt. Education Act 2013; Section 6, State Govt. Guidelines; section 10).
When the educational need for a proposed project is being determined, it is the responsibility of QIS BGA to ensure that the Minister contributes public funds towards what the QIS BGA considers to be the “minimum viable project” that will satisfy the established educational need (Aust. Govt. 2014 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual para.73).
If the proposed project is in excess of that which has been established as the “minimum viable project”, the Directors are obliged not to recommend that the Minister contribute any funds towards that excess. On occasions, QIS BGA is requested by proponent schools to contribute to more than the “minimum viable project” which would be needed to satisfy the established educational need. The school would need to present a compelling argument, based on educational need, for such consideration.
One of the primary tasks of the Education and Buildings Committee is to define the “minimum viable project” and consequently, to advise the Finance Committee that no funding should be considered for any other part of the proposed project.
QIS BGA recognises that it is not enough to establish that there is an educational need for a proposed project. It is also its responsibility to state the components of the project for which there is an educational need, therefore, facility descriptions such as classroom, store room and veranda will always be used.
In determining the financial need of a school in relation to the minimum viable project, it is the responsibility of QIS BGA to establish the maximum amount a school can contribute towards the proposed minimum viable project from its own resources. Resources may come from fees, loan funds, cash reserves, possible budget surpluses, Parents and Friends Associations, or Foundations (Aust. Govt. 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual paras. 61-65). It is, therefore, a primary task of the Finance Committee to determine the “maximum financial contribution” a school can make to the minimum viable project without detrimentally affecting the school’s recurrent effort (State Govt. Guidelines; Section 10).
The Directors support the many useful criteria (ratios and benchmarks) which QIS BGA has developed to assist in assessing a school’s maximum financial contribution from its own resources (actual and potential).
The two primary sources of funds available to schools for Capital purposes are loans raised and fees charged. In establishing the maximum amount a school could be expected to contribute from its own resources to a project, QIS BGA is obliged to consider such issues as:
- The school’s debt position;
- The school’s income;
- The school’s costs of operation.
It is recognised that what may be regarded as an appropriate ratio will vary from school to school, so over time a range of criteria have been developed that, using ratios and benchmarks, enable broad indicators to be established. The QIS BGA is obliged to consider a school’s total income and any capacity it may have to contribute further to the cost of the project. The school will be required to supply QIS BGA with financial data including audited documents that validate the school’s financial position.
The QIS BGA must be convinced of the future solvency of a school before making a recommendation to the Minister of a Capital grant for any project (Aust. Govt. 2014 Capital Grants Operating Manual para. 38, State Govt. Guidelines Section 10). To this end, the Finance Committee has the responsibility of advising the Directors on such matters as:
- Debt per student;
- Expenditure per student;
- The cost per student of “other” teaching and administration expenses;
- Teacher salaries (per teacher average);
- Student/teacher ratio;
- The fee structure as a source of income;
- The appropriate surplus in recurrent income which is available to service debt – annual debt servicing as a percentage of income;
- Future cash flow projections.
It is expected that any independent school seeking a Capital grant will be the primary source of funding for the proposed project. While “primary” usually means the major or main contributor, extra ordinary circumstances could exist where a project may be allotted a larger grant than the school’s contribution.